Why Do People with Alzheimer's Wander?

Why Do People with Alzheimer's Wander?

  • October 02, 2018

Wandering is one of the most frightening behaviors for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Many family caregivers experience it with their loved one. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in ten people who have Alzheimer’s disease will wander, and it can happen at any stage of the disease.

Families are usually aware of the dangers associated with having a loved one with memory loss go missing. When a senior wanders from home, they can easily become confused and unable to safely find their way back. If a person with Alzheimer’s isn’t located within the first 24 hours, their risk for serious or fatal injury is high.

4 Tips to Lower the Risk of Wandering

Because researchers don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why seniors with the disease wander. Experts do, however, have a few solid theories. Learning more about each of them may help you lower the risk a family member you are caring for will wander away.

Here are a few potential causes of wandering:

  • Unmet needs: Researchers believe this might be a leading cause of wandering. Because verbal skills are often impaired early in the disease, the senior might not be able to communicate their needs to caregivers. They might be hungry or thirsty or need to use the bathroom. When needs aren’t met, the older adult may go in search of a solution. One way to avoid that is by offering food and drinks at regular intervals throughout the day, and by showing the senior to the bathroom frequently.
  • Noisy or chaotic environment: When an environment is noisy or overly chaotic, it can create agitation and anxiety for someone with Alzheimer’s. The senior might wander in an effort to find a quieter, calmer place to rest. As a caregiver, it’s important to be mindful of background noise, crowds, and an overly hectic environment.
  • Unfamiliar environment: When memory is impaired, even once-familiar faces and places may be forgotten. The senior might wander to try to find their way “home,” even when they are already there. They could also be searching for a spouse who is deceased or other familiar faces. While this one might be more difficult to overcome, it may help if you keep familiar belongings and photos nearby.
  • Work routines: An older adult who spent many years working might not remember they are retired. They wander in an effort to get to work on time. Some families have found it helpful to tell their loved one that they “have the day off.” It is often easier than trying to convince a person with memory loss that they are retired.
  • Restlessness and boredom: A lack of meaningful activity is another reason an adult with Alzheimer’s might wander. Even small tasks such as setting the table or helping to fold laundry can help prevent boredom and restlessness.

If you have questions about Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, we encourage you to call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you. One of our memory care experts will be happy to help!

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